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World Briefs I

Israel Signals Readiness To Leave Occupied South Lebanon

The Washington Post

Nearly 13 years after declaring it was occupying part of southern Lebanon as its "security zone," Israel is signaling it is ready to withdraw its military forces from its neighbor to the north - if Lebanon supplies requisite security guarantees.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu '76, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai and other Israeli leaders have said in recent days that Israel will pull its troops back inside its own territory if Lebanon promises to take tough action to prevent cross-border guerrilla attacks by forces of the pro-Iranian Hizbollah movement.

"The moment a promise is made that Hizbollah will be disarmed in south Lebanon and will not pose a threat to the northern communities" of Israel, Netanyahu said Monday, "we will be willing to leave."

Lebanon rejected the overture, insisting that Israel's withdrawal be unconditional and that any negotiations are out of the question. "Lebanon's mere acceptance of sitting down at the negotiating table would constitute a backing down on the case of (U.N.) resolution 425," said Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Bouez, referring to a resolution passed in 1978 in response to an earlier Israeli occupation. It called for unconditional withdrawal.

Nonetheless, the Israeli statements appear to represent a slight shift of policy and, perhaps more significantly, reflect a growing domestic uneasiness about the costs of Israel's long struggle in Lebanon.

New Jersey Court Rules Boy Scouts Can't Ban Homosexuals

Los Angeles Times

An appeals court in New Jersey ruled Monday that it is illegal for the Boy Scouts of America to ban homosexuals.

The court overturned a decision barring James Dale, 27, an Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster, who earned 30 merit badges during his 12 years with the organization.

Dale was expelled from the Monmouth County Council of the Boy Scouts in 1990 after local scouting officials learned from a college newspaper story he is gay.

The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which supported Dale's suit, said Monday's decision was the first time any appeals court in the nation had ruled against the scouts.

A spokesman for the Boy Scouts said the organization would appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

"We're disappointed," said Gregg Shields, a spokesman for the national office of the Boy Scouts of America.

"A person who engages in homosexual conduct is not a role model for [traditional] values, and, accordingly, we don't offer leadership or membership in the Boy Scouts of America to avowed homosexuals," Shields added.

In the United States, the Boy Scouts has 5.8 million members, about 100,000 of whom live in New Jersey.

In its decision, the Superior Court appellate panel said "there is absolutely no evidence before us supporting a conclusion that a gay scoutmaster, solely because he is homosexual, does not possess the strength of character necessary to properly care for, or to impart BSA humanitarian ideals to the young boys in his charge," the court decided.

U.S. Slashes Anti-Drug Aid to Bolivian Government

The Washington Post

The United States has slashed counter-drug aid to Bolivia, a leading producer of cocaine, by 75 percent this year, a move that senior Bolivian officials Monday warned could severely strain relations between two governments with a long-standing record of cooperation in the international war on drug trafficking.

Bolivian Vice President Jorge Quiroga, who is visiting Washington, told reporters the U.S. decision to cut the aid from $46 million in 1997 to $12 million was "very difficult to digest or understand" and could lead his country to reject U.S. aid altogether. Bolivia's allocation was cut, according to a State Department official, to allow a sharp increase in aid to Colombia, which the United States has not certified as an anti-drug ally for the past three years and which only last week was exempted from U.S. sanctions.

"If that decision is not changed, we will say, Thank you very much, but take your money and take a hike,' " Quiroga said. "We will continue our (counter-drug) work because we are doing it for ourselves."

"The signal is clear," Quiroga said. "If you are certified with flying colors, you lose your funding. It is the wrong message to send."

However, Peru, once the world's largest producer of coca, has seen its overall production drop by 40 percent in the past year. As a reward for its progress, U.S. aid to Peru grew from $26 million in 1997 to $31 million this year.